Today we begin the reading of the book of Exodus. The family of Jacob has transformed into the people of Israel. The Pharaoh who lavished honor and wealth upon Joseph and his kinsfolk has died, and in his place rose a Pharaoh who sought to gather honor and wealth for himself upon the backs of Hebrew (and other) slaves. A familiar story, repeated throughout history. Jews are always welcomed at first, as they are at the forefront of technological and social innovation. As their power and stature in society grows, however, anti-Semitism rises as well, driven by fear and envy. Eventually they are oppressed, massacred, and/or driven out.
I came late to synagogue today, however, and I missed most of this story. I also missed the part about Moses growing up in Pharaoh's palace, running away, and being called by G*d to go back to Pharaoh and demand freedom for the Israelites.
Instead, I came right at the end. After refusing Moses' plea, Pharaoh instead ramps up the oppression. The people complain to Moses, who turns in prayer to G*d:
"O Lord, why did You bring harm upon this people? Why did You send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has
dealt worse with this people; and still You have not delivered Your
How this resonates for us today! We despair at the recent ban on adoption of Russian orphans by Americans, not understanding why G*d would allow young children to be used as political pawns in this fashion. We are frustrated that we feel called to adopt or otherwise help orphans, yet these efforts are rebuffed.
And G*d answers:
"You shall soon see what I will do to Pharaoh: he shall let them go
because of a greater might; indeed, because of a greater might he shall
drive them from his land."
What does that mean as far as Russia goes? We do not know. It may be that this roadblock will increase adoptions from other areas. It may motivate new reforms within Russia. It may simply raise awareness about adoption, so that more children, both domestically and internationally, find loving homes. We, like Moses, must not shy away from doing the right thing just because it is hard, or because there are obstacles. The struggle is as much a part of the story as the ultimate redemption.